Rosie The Riveter, the muscle baring, WWII feminist icon, has apparently traded in her power tools for a Swiffer Steam Mop. At least that’s what this recent Swiffer ad would have us believe. Naturally, women are a little upset about it, myself included. It just seems like mindless advertising to me — it’s the same way I feel when I see just about any cleaning commercial featuring a white mom with two kids and a sparkly white upper middle-class kitchen. Like, really, that’s all you could come up with? Sigh.
According to The Huffington Post, a Swiffer spokesperson responded promptly to the backlash with this comment:
We are aware of the concerns regarding an image in a Swiffer ad. Our core purpose is to make cleaning easier for all consumers, regardless of who is behind the handle of our products. It was not our intention to offend any group with the image, and we are working to make changes to where it is used as quickly as possible.
It is entirely possible that they didn’t see the similarities between their model and Rosie The Riveter. I mean, people probably wear red bandannas and denim shirts while they clean their homes nowadays, right? I’m only kind of being facetious; the woman in the ad isn’t flexing her bicep or anything. And if women still really are doing most of the housework, I guess I can understand how Swiffer was just trying to relate their product to their primary audience.
But you know what would have been really cool? Having a man dressed up like Rosie The Riveter, holding that mop. Because that would have made a statement. That would have caught people’s attention. And I don’t see any problem with re-appropriating a feminist icon to encourage modern men to step up in the household, much like women stepped up to do men’s work in the 1940′s. We need more of this!
That’s why I loved how Huggies turned around their controversial inept dad commercials and replaced them with competent, attentive dads with adorable babies in Bjorns and such. I know it’s not the responsibility of these companies to address social issues like these, but from an advertising standpoint, doesn’t it make more sense to surprise people? I tend to tune out commercials that feature stereotypes, because they’re all the same. But when I see something hilarious or out of the ordinary, I pay attention.
I do think it’s great that Swiffer responded so quickly to the complaints, and this one ad isn’t going to deter me from using their products. Now, please, bring on Ronald The Riveter!
UPDATE: Swiffer tweeted the following message at us